Vacant Since Fire

Officials eager to raze historic building

Friday, May 18, 2007

By Maureen Nolan Staff writer

Nearly six years ago the owner of a historic eyesore on Butternut Street won a legal battle for the right to demolish the building. Then he let it stand.

The Loos building, which is vacant, boarded up and streaked with graffiti, dominates the intersection of Butternut and Park streets, but maybe not for long. The city is moving to bring it down.

Common Councilor-at-large Bill Ryan and city Economic Development Director David Michel said the building is among a dozen or so on a list of properties the city wants to demolish with $500,000 from the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency.

Ryan said the city is in the final stages of making a deal about the demolition with owner Tino Marcoccia, who owns numerous properties on Butternut and in Syracuse, according to city records.

Marcoccia bought the three-story brick building in 1999 for $80,000, according to city records. It's been vacant since a fire in 1996 drove out its last tenant, a drugstore.

Ryan said he understands the city can't force Marcoccia to tear the building down because its condition isn't bad enough to condemn, and its property taxes are current.

Colleen Deacon, a spokeswoman for Mayor Matt Driscoll, said Corporation Counsel Rory McMahon would not talk about the building's status because he is negotiating with the owner on various properties.

When reached by telephone twice over two days, Marcoccia said he didn't have time to be interviewed about the property. He said only that demolition would be the best thing that could happen and that he had not torn it down because he wasn't ready.

Marcoccia said the city is not going to pay to tear it down. The city would not comment on who would cover the cost.

Ryan said the building is an eyesore that should go. He said he hears complaints about the building at every North Side neighborhood meeting he attends.

He has promised the neighborhood that the building will be down by Memorial Day.

Tearing the building down became an issue for Marcoccia in 2000. He said it would cost too much to renovate it, and the city Planning Commission gave him permission to raze it and redevelop the site.

The Preservation Association of Central New York went to court to try to block the demolition. The 1895 building is a designated local historic site designed by Archimedes Russell, the city's best-known architect.

All the same, the court said, Marcoccia could tear the building down.

Even now, its demolition would be a loss, said Don Radke, chair of the city Landmark Preservation Board, and Sam Gruber, president of the Preservation Association Board.

"In the last five years we've seen a dramatic increase in interest and success in converting older buildings of this type into mixed-use or residential units, and we've seen that downtown, but we've also begun to see it on the North Side, in particular on North Salina Street," Gruber said.

If the city and building owner had the will, it could have happened at the Loos building, he said.

Maureen Nolan can be reached at 470-2185 or mnolan@syracuse.com

2007 The Post-Standard.